During our week in Catalonia I realised that certain themes were emerging. One of these was baths, but also we’d come across a spring. So I merged these pictures into a themed post for today. A detour from the chronological story.
I mentioned already that Can Batlle Guest House was quirky but comfortable. Even the bathroom fitted this bill!
Right next to the little church of Sant Marti del Corb we discovered a holy spring
Steps down to the Besalu Mikvé Jewish Bath still in situ in Besalu
One of the main places of interest in Besalu is the Miqwé or Jewish bath-house. Miquel managed to book us onto a tour to see the Baths, which are not generally open to the public, on the morning of our departure for Girona. I remembered having seen a Miqwé before that had been removed from a building site in the City of London and is now on display in the Jewish Museum in Camden.
“Originally attached to a synagogue positioned in the old Jewish quarter in the heart of the lower town, along the riverbank, it is unique in Spain being the only one in the country to have survived from the 13thC (in fact there are only two others in the whole of Europe). It was discovered in 1964. Steps descend to the simple caulted bathsin which women ceremonially bathed following childbirth or menstruation. Above the Miqwé are the remains of the synagogue wall built into the medieval walls.” [ATG Route Booklet]
Only the base of the façade that looked onto the synagogue courtyard has been preserved. The rest of the building has been lost due to wars and flooding.
In Girona we visited The Jewish Museum in The Call (the Catalan name for the Jewish Quarter) where the Jewish population lived until 1492. Here were preserved further remains of a mikveh (ritual bath) but in use at a much later date than that at Besalu i.e. 1435 and 1492. It was only discovered in the course of the archaeological excavations in February 2014, around the area of the old cistern. It is a small sized mikveh fed by rainwater, which entered through a pipe discovered during the excavations.
The Girona Mikveh
Last, but not least, we visited the amazingly preserved Els Banys Arabs in Girona. The actual origin of the baths is unknown but the first documentation was from 1194. The baths are replicas of the North African model which was imitated in many other areas in the Mediterranean region. They were used mainly by Christians in the Middle Ages and indeed became part of the Capuchin nuns’ Monastery of the Annunciation in 1618. I suppose they ran into disuse since the leaflet moves on to explain that in 1929 the City of Girona decided to separate the baths from the convent and a process of restoration began. The baths opened to the public in 1931.
Bathers did a tour of four separate ‘rooms’. The sequence is similar to the various Roman Baths that I’ve visited over the years.
The APODITERI or Locker Room with its small octagonal pool with the remains of arcading and the stone benches
Bathers then moved into the FRIGIDARIUM or Cold Room;
the TEPIDARIUM or Warm Room and,
finally, the CALDARIUM or Hot Room.
The heat came from the underground oven or HYPOCAUST.
The roof top of Els Banys Arabs